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An Event to Remember

Doesn’t it seem like no matter how many hours you put into planning the “perfect” event, something manages to go wrong?  Sure, you’re the Event Planning Poster Child for dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s, but somehow something will inevitably go astray.  Murphy’s Law, plain and simple!

If this describes your feelings about event planning, then you’re not alone.  Many a marketer before you have cursed the heaven’s in the name of Murphy.  But I think it’s time we cut ourselves some slack, because (here’s a newsflash) there is really no such thing as a “perfect” event.

I know, I know, I know; you like to think of yourself as the type of marketer who strives for “only the best,” but progress is better than perfection.  The more occasions that you organize, the better you will become.   And learning how to roll with the sometimes-painful punches that you encounter along the way is one of the key factors in success when you’re talking about planning and hosting an event.

This takes me back to the very first event that I ever helped to plan in A/E/C. This was actually less than a year ago and I cannot believe how much I have learned since then. Although it is a bit shameful to admit what I’m about to divulge, I am willing to publicly embarrass myself.  Why?  Because it’s okay  to make mistakes; in fact, most people learn more from their mistakes than they do their successes. 

Below are just the major errors that occurred during my very first event. Keep in mind, I was just an intern and overwhelmed beyond belief…but all disclaimers aside…

  • Time’s a-Wastin’. The catered food was 45 minutes late. I repeat, 45 minutes late! What is everyone’s favorite part of attending events? Free Food. My stomach literally turned in knots as the guests waited…and waited…and waited…for the food to finally arrive. Lessons Learned: It is better to cater with a business you are familiar with. Choose a company that you know you can rely on based on overall reputation, peer references and reviews, etc. Also, have the caterer arrive at least 30 minutes early to your venue, just as a precaution.  Hey, believe me, it’s better to pay a little extra to the caterer for time than it is to try to appease a room full of hungry people. 
  • Coffee Catastrophe. On top of the food disaster, we temporarily ran out of coffee for the guests half way through the event. This also happened to be an early morning event which of course means that plenty of coffee for everyone is not only needed, but expected. To say that I began to panic is an understatement. Lessons Learned:If a company says they will give you an “unlimited supply” of something, ask what their process is to refill the item prior to it running out and make sure that their process is bullet-proof…or at least reasonable.
  • Recess, Anyone? So you’re probably already noticing a trend here regarding food snafu’s…and here’s another one!  We paid for over-priced juice which we could have otherwise bought at Costco. When I was quoted for coffee and juice, I ignorantly assumed this included “fresh” juice.  Imagine my embarrassment when we ended up handing out mini DOLE juice cans.  It was just like recess again…I was halfway expecting my juice to come accompanied by a Power-Ranger’s lunchbox.  And yeah, we ended up running out of the juice cans as well…Lesson Learned: Never, ever, ever assume anything. Ask as many questions as you can when placing a large catering order, even if the questions seem profoundly silly! You should know exactly what is arriving on the day of your event.
  • Fashion Faux Pas: We ran out of the “preferred” shirt size that we were handing out to those in attendance. For whatever reason, I took our Superintendent’s word regarding sizing of shirts. Apparently, they thought the majority of the guests would prefer over-sized shirts.  As it turns out, very few attendees were interested in walking around in the polo equivalent of a dress. Lessons Learned: Never take someone’s word for what sizes you should order. If you know the guests well enough, then you’ll need to use your best judgement.  If you don’t know the gests well (or well enough), then anticipate for the majority of people landing somewhere in the middle of Small and XL and order the bulk of shirts accordingly.
  • My One Job: I had one REAL job to accomplish at the event…just one…and I totally flopped it.  I forgot to bring sharpies for the signing of the beam at the topping out ceremony. Yep, I planned an event focused on singing and placing the last beam on a building and somehow forgot to bring the pens. Lesson Learned:  Checklists are absolutely mandatory when planning an event.  Start creating lists as soon as your planning process begins. Check your lists over at least twice before the day of the event and have another person look it over to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.
  • Wind Blown. Sure, a nice breeze is always welcome, but I didn’t anticipate such a blustery morning…one that would send table covers flying in all directions.  Then again, we do live in a Valley, so I guess I’m sort of off the hook on this one… Lesson Learned: Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  Variables beyond your control, such as the weather, are a reality of event planning. But you still have to be prepared.  Make sure that your event can survive, US Postal Service style (“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…”).

If you don’t have “stress sweat” after reading my laundry list of event confessionals, then you’re obviously an event pro.  You are probably also wondering why I am giving advice about events after admitting to all of my mistakes.  But let me tell you, it only took one “bad” event for me to NEVER make those mistakes again. My next co-hosted event took place in September of 2015 and was a huge success. If it wasn’t for all that I had learned in my first event, I wouldn’t have been as prepared or planned as thoroughly for my second event.

So what else?  In addition to tips on what not to do when planning and hosting events, here are a few reminders to help you keep your sanity:

  • An Eye on the Prize. Hosting a successful event requires strategy, planning and execution. Identify your objective for the party and check back in throughout the process to make sure your planning efforts are aligning with the goal(s) of the event. This seems simple, but it can be easy to lose sight of why an event is really being organized in the first place if you’re not keeping your “eye on the prize.”

  • Insurance is Priceless. OK, not really; insurance definitely has a price tag, but you get the idea. Make sure to get vendor’s insurance in case of rare circumstances that have the potential to become huge liabilities for your company. If you are unfamiliar with this process, discuss it with someone at your company who is knowledgeable (typically a Contracts person or Executive).
  • Less is More? Not Really. A good rule of thumb is to send out invitations early enough so that you can use the RSVP’s to give you a close estimate on expected attendance. Of course, you should keep in mind that 1) noteveryone who RSVP’d will actually show up, and 2) many people who didn’t RSVP will turn up after all.  If you are in a time crunch to get back to the caterer, then it is safe to assume between 50% and 60% of your invited guests will attend (for most events). Either way, plan for more than enough of everything that you’ll need to satisfy the crowd;  it is always better to have extra than to run out.

  • Step Back. There is always room for improvement.  After each event, take a step back to reflect and evaluate what happened.  You can do this by passing out evaluation forms (if appropriate), or getting anonymous feedback from your peers after the event is over. Take notes and write down reminders for yourself so that the next even can be even more successful! 

  • Enjoy Yourself. Seeing a stressed out host makes people feel like they are burden, so keep this in mind:  no one will notice even half of the “errors” that occur in any given event.  We are often our own worst critic, but sometimes you have to just smile, adjust as the event goes on and try not to let it affect your attitude.

So there you have it.  Hey, no one said event planning was an easy task.  But if you can remember some of these tips, you can save yourself some of the most stressful of situations…like running out of coffee…eek! Just thinking about that still makes me cringe.

Event planning can be a fun and exhilarating creative outlet for Marketers, but YOU will ultimately set the vibe.  If you look at an upcoming event as a drag, then it will probably be a drag. So plan an unforgettable event and be ready to shine (and have some fun, too)!  After all, EVERYONE loves the host…


About the Blogger: Ashley Black is one of those millennials that everyone can’t stop talking about.  She’s motivated, driven and proud to be a new face in the Phoenix A/E/C industry. Ashley loves to write, volunteer and watch her favorite NBA team – the Golden State Warriors.  She’s ready to prove everyone wrong about “youngsters in the workplace” and promises to be a marketing professional you won’t soon forget.

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A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear Maisha,

Be really nice to Tammy. And Tina. And Amanda, Suzanne and Danielle. They all are going to play incredibly unique and important roles in your career. Despite the fact that you’re working in accounting right now, you’re going to find a career that you absolutely love one day. You’re going to be a marketing professional – a really good marketing professional – and a lot of that success will be due to the people you meet and connect with.

This might be against the time-travel rules, but I’m going to tell exactly how it’s going to happen so you can be ready. You’re going to apply for a job as a marketing coordinator and despite the fact that you’re under-qualified, Tina is going to hire you. Tina hires you based on the recommendation of her good friend Tammy. You and Tammy will have already crossed paths at a previous company where you helped her find lost diamonds and handled a jerk-boss with class and tactfulness.

You’ll meet Amanda while working for Tina. Observe everything she does because she’s smart, funny and fearless. She’s going to be one of the few work-friends you have in life, so it will break your heart when she leaves, but don’t panic; you’ll stay in touch. She’s going to become an economic developer for the Town of Gilbert where you will own a home so your paths will continuously cross.

You’ll meet Suzanne in the restroom while working with Amanda and Tina. She’ll be working for an architectural firm that shares the same building. Both of you will be laid off when your respective firms shutter their offices. Once you’re laid off, you’ll have lots of opportunities to consider, but Danielle will help you find a company that fits you best. As luck would have it, Suzanne will become your manager. Again, observe everything she does because this woman is the industries’ best-kept-secret and she too becomes a very dear friend. Suzanne will leave Jokake too, but she will have laid a good foundation for you to step into and grow. Incredible opportunities will come your way and the collective guidance of these women (and many other individuals) will help you navigate each of them.

I’m not really sure how this time-travel thing works, so in the event that my disclosure of such details will change the course of your life going forward, I want to leave you with a bit of advice that will be valuable to you:

Glean as much as you can from as many smart people as you can. Find mentors, both within your company and outside of it. Respect their time and their knowledge. Ask questions and really listen to their answers and wisdom. Separate the meat from the bones. Build your own board of directors – people who know their stuff and are willing to share it with you. Then, once you know a thing or two, become a mentor and share your knowledge with others.

Follow this advice and even if you don’t become a really good marketing professional, you’ll still become a really good person.

Love always,

P.S. That guy you’re dealing with right now…he is NOT the one!


About the Blogger:  As the marketing director responsible for internal and external marketing efforts at Jokake Construction, Maisha Christian Hagan occupies the space where strategic and creative business solutions intersect. She has a passion for people, a mind for business and a gift to teach – all skills that go to great use as Mentorship Chair for SMPS’ Arizona Chapter. Maisha is also a sought-after speaker and facilitator focusing on marketing strategy, S.M.A.R.T. goal development, DISC profile, corporate culture, brainstorming and communication, influence, and conflict resolution.

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Falling Up

You could ask almost any A/E/C marketer what it was that brought them into this industry and most will have their own unique tale of how they “fell” into it. But I can’t help feeling like there is a negative connotation associated with “falling” into this industry…or any industry, for that matter. Perhaps it’s because the wording subtly implies that what you’re doing now is not exactly what you had envisioned for yourself as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed high school graduate excited by the notion of the rest of your life. Or maybe you were already a seasoned professional but needed any job you could get just to make ends meet. Or maybe, just maybe, you were already in A/E/C but marketing just became your job one day because no one else wanted to do it. Thanks for the promotion! I think…

Whatever the case may be for us A/E/C marketers, I am left with a single recurring thought. It’s more of a question really, which I now submit to you. Is falling really so bad? For better or for worse, “falling” into A/E/C marketing changed my life. It marked the beginning of a whole new chapter for me, as I’m sure it did for many of you. But we will all have to come to our own conclusions about the impact of those changes and our perceptions of the paths that we have traveled since.

The Fall (for me)

I graduated from ASU with a Journalism degree a handful of years ago. Of course, I didn’t take the typical journalism route with Print or Broadcast. No, I choose the more ambiguous career path of Public Relations. This was right in the middle of the recession, too, when recovery was nowhere in sight. Picture this: a super-green graduate who didn’t really know exactly what she wanted to do except that she was interested in PR. That was me! Imagine my surprise when I started looking for entry-level PR jobs and found myself vying for those positions alongside experienced professionals. I think it goes without saying that my prospects were dismal. This predicament led me to something I knew how to do well but wasn’t exactly exhilarated by – a Receptionist position.

I had worked for this firm throughout my college career as a part-time Receptionist and they were looking for someone to go full-time just about the same time that I finished my degree. Although I felt somewhat deflated by the status of the position, I was feeling the need to be financially free, and it was the best offer that I had to date. At the time, it seemed like a temporary solution but little did I know where it would actually lead me.

Surprisingly, it felt pretty good going back to my old job and it was indeed comforting to have a job considering the job market was extremely slim. However, my enthusiasm only lasted six months…which in retrospect wasn’t that surprising at all. When low and behold, just when I thought all hope was lost, my Marketing Messiah strolled right through those lobby doors and introduced herself as the new Marketing Manager. As she settled in and I started to see what marketing entailed, it dawned on me that Marketing and PR weren’t all that different after all. I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe I could do marketing, too!”

I got to work on establishing a dialogue of sorts, casually slipping in hints that I had actual marketing skills and that Icould in fact help make her life easier. These conversations were the beginning of a relationship that led to a year of learning, growing, and even the production of marketing materials by “yours truly.” It was beyond EXCITING! Sadly, my marketing efforts weren’t going to lead to a real marketing position…at least not for a while. It just wasn’t in the cards for the company to add another marketing person at that particular point in time.

Despite my bruised ego and brewing frustrations, I felt deep down that this couldn’t just be IT for me. Was I really destined to be a Receptionist for the rest of my life? Not that there’s anything wrong with being a Receptionist, but I couldn’t accept “yes” as the answer to that question. I realized then that I had learned enough to market myself as a Marketing/PR professional. That year of training hadn’t left me empty handed; it was time to take this show out on the road!

Within the first month of my job search, a Marketing Coordinator position was revealed to me like a sign from God. Before I knew it, I had an interview scheduled and two days later an offer letter waiting in my inbox. I have come to the conclusion now that this opportunity was a God thing, like divine intervention. But it actually started out as an SMPS thing. My Marketing Messiah had encouraged my involvement in SMPS, and I had been extremely diligent in meeting as many people as I could. I just wanted to absorb all the awesome experience of the professionals around me, which led me to an introduction with my would-be recruiter and my future boss. Behold, a miracle! I had stumbled across a marketing position by way of my old college job, and had allowed myself to “fall” through the barrier that had been Reception…landing pleasantly in A/E/C marketing.

The Landing

I think the notion of “falling” into marketing for A/E/C is all in your perspective. For me, it was more like “falling up.” I didn’t scrape my knees on the way down. It was more like taking advantage of an opportunity to challenge myself, utilize my strengths, and grow as a professional. The “fall” gave me a path when I thought I didn’t have one. It paved the way towards excellent mentors, colleagues and even friends all of whom I am forever grateful for. Three years later, I’m still “falling” and loving every minute it of it.

How to “Fall Up”

What is my advice to all my fellow A/E/C administrators and receptionists out there who want to “fall up” into marketing?

  • Find a marketing mentor. Reach out to the Marketing Manager/Coordinator at your company and find out more about their marketing needs. I bet you a pretty penny that they have a lot on their plate and would love to share the load. They may even be seeking another marketing person and may be having trouble making leadership understand their need. If you could help in marketing and get promoted from within, it would be win-win situation for the both of you. No Marketing people at your company? Come to SMPS and get connected with those that can help you explore opportunities within the industry. Hey, you can even call me (seriously, my contact info is on the “Contact Us” page of SMPS AZ’s website) and I will help get you moving in the right direction.
  • Harness your inner Marketer! Do you have a secret obsession with graphic design? Maybe you’re a former English major who’s chomping at the bit to get your “write on.” Whatever your passion may be, take note of your skills and evaluate how they might be useful to the marketing department. The next step is beyond easy. Let it be known that you have marketing skills to offer and ask how you can help. When I was first learning about A/E/C marketing, I realized that a lot of my PR skills were comparable and all I needed was the opportunity to put them to good use. Plus, who doesn’t love someone who helps lighten their load?
  • Network, Network, Network. For goodness sakes, get yourself to an SMPS meeting ASAP. SMPS has so many options like Marketing Council (only $15 bucks), Leverage Your Beverage (networking central) and our Monthly Programs (an education in A/E/C happenings) to choose from. This is not just a shameless plug for the organization; I can honestly say that without SMPS, I wouldn’t be here today. I will be forever thankful that my marketing mentor dragged me to all those SMPS events, just so that I could get some exposure to the organization and the cool people within the SMPS network.

I hope that all of you out there mulling over the thought of a career path in A/E/C marketing are able to eventually take a leap of faith and embrace the chance to “fall up.” Hey, if it could happen for me, there’s no reason it can’t happen for you!


About the Blogger:  Roxy Kinsinger is the Marketing Coordinator at Pulice Construction, Inc. and serves as the 2015-2016 Publicity Director for SMPS Arizona. When she’s not sharpening her marketing skills, Roxy spends her weekends dabbling in an assortment of hobbies. Lately, she has been experimenting with essentials oils, taking a stab at gardening, and now blogging. Roxy does have a few staple hobbies that never lose their luster including baking, musicals, and hiking with her husband.

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Two Truths & a Lie

Have you ever played Two Truths and a Lie? Do you want to play a quick round with me today? What?!?! You’ve never played before? No sweat…the game is about as simple as they come. I tell you two truths and one lie; you try to guess which of the three is a total fabrication. OK, here we go!

Scenario 1: “Make ‘er Purty”

I’m at work and my boss stops by my desk, eager to give me a new assignment. He says that he has emailed me a report that he started and that all I have to do is ‘make it pretty.’ You know, just make it look nice and make sure it meets our corporate standards (insert eye roll here). “Oh, and by the way,” he continues to say, “I’ll need that in an hour. The client is expecting it.” Ugh…and I imagine myself smacking him across the face…with a live audience applauding me in the background like in a TV sitcom.

My actual response? "Yeah, no problem boss; I’m your miracle worker for the day." Little did I know that I might actually have to perform a miracle to complete the task at hand. Because when I opened the report, it was 10 pages long and nowhere NEAR our corporate standards. In fact, he even managed to send it to me in comic sans font. Yeah, it was THAT bad! The icing on the cake? He threw in some “filler text” for areas of the report that he thought I could just ‘fix up’ for him. Hmmm…

Scenario 2: “Back by Day Two”

I’ve just given birth to my beautiful baby. In fact, it’s only been 24 hours since the actual birth and I’m still at the hospital…just waiting on my discharge paperwork so I can take my baby home. Then my phone rings. Guess who; my boss. “How nice,” I think to myself. “He must be calling to congratulate me!” Warm fuzzies all the way around, right? Too bad that’s not AT ALL the reason that he had called.

The real reason? He wants to know if I can come into the office tomorrow to work on something that has to be done. Apparently, I’m the only person in the entire office who knows how to do it. REALLY?!?! SERIOUSLY?!?! I look longingly down at my one-day-old baby in her bassinet…then agree to come in to the office. The next day, I'm at my desk working with my two-day-old splayed across my chest.  Hmmm...

Scenario 3: “Nasty-Gram”

I’m headed in to downtown Phoenix for an early morning meeting with a client at the City. Right before the meeting, I realize (as a 13-week pregnant woman often does) that I need to stop by the ‘ladies’ room for a quick pit-stop. But when I get there, I discover a major issue...MAJOR issue. I AM HORRIFIED!!! I run out of the restroom and tell my client that I need to leave IMMEDIATELY.

Within the 40-minute drive home (which, by the way was sheer panic and terror), I manage to call my husband AND my office. I have two meetings with clients lined up for the day that really shouldn’t be canceled, so I assign people from my office to cover the meetings for me. I even have the clear-mindedness to download/send the meeting agenda along with the other items that they’ll need to take with them. With the clients totally covered, all remnants of work obligations quickly disappear and I begin fearing the worst…

What I didn’t realize was that one of the clients would be upset by my lack of attendance at that one meeting on thatone day. So upset, in fact, that he would send me a nasty-gram about a week later stating that “because of ‘lack of proper attendance’ at the meeting, we just don’t feel that you are dedicated to the project and the deadline and we may have to find another firm to finish our project.’  Hmmm...

Which is Which?

So now you want to know which of the two scenarios are true and which one is a total fabrication, right? I’m sure you’ve got your own suspicions, but before I divulge the answer, I’d like to pose a question in an effort to put ALL THREE scenarios into perspective. Here goes…

Does it really matter which one is the lie?  They are ALL nightmares…nightmares brought on by the simple fact that sometimes, people SUCK. When did we lose our hearts? At what point did deadlines, budgets and project parameters become more important than how we treat each other and even ourselves?

A Few “Truths”

The A/E/C industry is dominated by endless deadlines, ridiculously low budgets and the ‘almighty dollar.’ I would venture a guess that many of my colleagues put in more than 40 hours per week…possibly even more than 55 hours. Usually because somewhere along the line, someone arbitrarily decided that it would take their team two weeks to finish a project that should actually take no less than six. And this casual decision was probably fueled by an underlying need to fill the backlog and an overriding urge to impress the client.

Never mind that long-term BD efforts are really how the backlog gets filled…the two-week schedule is set and the boss leaves it to the team to make up that time. But when do we, as A/E/C professionals, finally say “enough is enough?”  

Before I get to the “big reveal,” I’d like to explore a few of the truths behind the current state of A/E/C that I (or at least the part of me that hugs people and trees) find extremely appalling.

  • Truth 1: At some point during the recession, both public and private entity owners discovered that they could really squeeze A/E/C firms and require the presentation of full design options DURING THE INTERVIEW PROCESS. The thrill of getting shortlisted is now overshadowed by a sidebar of ‘provide your design ideas during the interview.’ So the owner wants us to provide FREE design during an interview that we have a 1 in 3 (sometimes 1 in 5) chance in winning?!?! The owner obviously doesn’t realize, or perhaps doesn’t care, that we now must take a team of talented (and billable) professionals off of a job that is actually paying us in order to create a theoretic masterpiece...for free. FOR FREE!!! The ones that we lose, the ones that cost us thousands upon thousands of dollars in lost crew time (not to mention printing costs, etc.)? I’ve been told that those are “just the price of doing business.” The “name of the game,” if you will. But I say it’s A/E/C professionals taking it up the…well, you get the idea. Let’s face it; this a step in the WRONG direction and it’s a total disgrace to our industry.

  • Truth 2: Ridiculous deadlines, pretty much ALL OF THE TIME. Let’s take for instance the onslaught of annual contracts that all come due around December 30th. I guess A/E/C professionals don’t really need a break to spend the holiday with their families. In fact, I’m fairly certain none of us even have families. We’re married to our computers, laptops and the office printers (I hope you smell the stench of sarcasm right about now). No seriously, what the "h" is with the deadlines the week after Christmas?!?! Do these owners think that we don’t want to take time to be with our loved ones? Or maybe it’s that we don’t really deserve a break. That must be what it is. Especially since many of them don’t even put out the new contracts with the shortlisted firms until APRIL. PUH-lease. This happens much more often than not. Can we get a wake-up call here?!?!

So there you have it; the “truth” according to me. Both speak to the heart of the matter; that we have forgotten about the people behind the deadlines, the budgets and all the hard work; that we have forgotten our hearts. But maybe I just need to go hug a tree; maybe our hearts can still be mended. But how?

Unfortunately, I don’t really have an answer here. But I think the road to recovery begins within each and every one of us, and it starts with standing up for ourselves. The next time an owner wants to ‘cut the fee by ten percent,’ or ‘cut the schedule in half,’ we need to thoughtfully and professional explain why that isn’t realistic. Explain how cutting ten percent off of the fee is really cutting out a firm’s profit (and that without profit, there’s really no point to being in business). Explain that your firm’s values include having a team that goes home to their families at a decent hour every night. Make a commitment to hiring an appropriate amount of staff to cover extra work hours in the event of a long-term work bubble, and remind yourself that you won’t take on a project at the detriment of the very people that you employ. Hey, no one should have to work 80 hours a week on a regular basis…no one.

The Big Reveal

But enough procrastinating, right? Which one was which?

My “total fabrication” was the very first scenario...the "Make 'er Purty" scenario. Most people don’t guess that one because (in all honesty) this EXACT scenario has probably happened to each and every one of my colleagues at some point in their careers. I can only hope that at least one of them has had the guts to stand up for themselves...

That means that the other two are total truths and actually happened to me PERSONALLY.

In retrospect, the “Back by Day Two” scenario is a great example of when I should have stood up for myself. Instead, what did I say? “Yes.” I said yes. What a fool I was; what an idiot I was! The shame; the horror! How could I have?!?!? What I should have said was ‘NO, NOT MY PROBLEM...I've got family obligations right now.’ At the time, though, I didn’t have the gumption enough to tell my boss “no.” I wish I had; I still regret it to this day. The fact that no one else in that office could do what needed to be done should have shown them the value that I actually brought. Sadly, it took me several years before I realized that myself…and even more upsetting is that I don’t think they EVER came to that realization. Of course, I’m not there I guess I shouldn't care.

As for the third scenario, my “Nasty-Gram” scenario, it happened not that long ago. Not to worry, though; baby and I are doing just fine. But my client is still deciding whether or not he wants to fire me. I could care less if he does. Ifthat’s the cost of winning that job, then the price is too high for me…and I’m OK with that.

The Point

Yes, after all this rambling, I actually DO have a point…and here it is! Those of us who stayed the A/E/C course throughout the economic turmoil of the Great Recession came out the other side a little bit beat up and frayed. Many of us feel battered and bruised; our confidence waning. But that doesn’t mean that we have to give away our self-respect and forget our hearts. We are still in this industry because we are good at what we do; we survived; we made it. That’s the real truth.

We deserve better; we deserve so much more than what we have told ourselves is acceptable. And it’s about time that the A/E/C industry demands it. Essentially, we need a hug…if for no other reason than to remind ourselves of what it was about this industry that we loved and were so passionate about when we first started. I know I could sure use a hug. How about you?


About the Blogger: This anonymous blogger is a human-hugging caped crusader of justice for the A/E/C industry…self-proclaimed, of course...and a little sarcastic to boot.

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Spice it up! A 2016 Resolution

It’s a new year! Maybe it’s time to spice things up. Maybe that’s exactly what the doctor has ordered. Your work marriage is something to take great care of. We all have them; yes, even graveyard managers have a boss or an assistant or a partner that they just can’t live without. In many ways, this relationship can provide endless support, can salvage your very sanity and can even keep you employed for longer than you should be (in the worst of times). I’m sure you’re all thinking of your happy (or perhaps not-so-happy) work marriages right now.

I sadly realized something the other day. It was only one short year ago that I wasn’t yet a consultant; only one short year ago would I leave a potential client’s meeting and be so excited to talk about the opportunity with my boss that we would stop and chat in the parking lot before leaving the site. It didn’t matter if the weather was extremely hot or extremely cold; she was always excited too, and would listen no matter how long I went on. It was only one short year ago that I would also constantly check in, would regularly send updates about what I was doing and was generally excited when new things would come my way. I remember asking around to everyone on the team: “What’s going on with that project? Can I help at all? It looks great!!”.

Now that I’m a consultant, not so much. Over the course of a single year, my gears have shifted and are now furiously spinning about client opportunities that have been years in the works, the vast array of upcoming events that I continue to commit to, and the development of my own skills as each project gets completed. When I leave a meeting, I’m out the door. Other team member’s projects are almost the last thing on my mind unless I know I am a necessary and integral part. Even more sadly, I am acutely aware that I now rarely ask: “How is that going?? Is there anything I can do to help?”

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks; something had struck already and I had barely tucked my one-year anniversary under my belt. What was it? An aloof mentality that strikes even the most well-intentioned of relationships. The thought process goes something like this: they know how much I love them and I don’t need to say anything to prove it. How I feel is shown in what I do. The flaw? Well, we already covered that didn’t we…what I do right now is aggressively focus on myself. Does that sound like a good partner to you? Not really…

The first thing that any decent therapist (or nosy co-worker) will do is bring to your attention that you aren’t being a very good partner. Then they will make you admit it. And yes, I had to admit it; I wasn’t being the partner that I knew I could be. Hell, I wasn’t even being the partner that I had been just a year ago! Ouch!!! But the best part about this painful admittance is that once it has happened, you can start down the path of “SPICING THINGS UP” and can transform yourself back into the amazing partner that you were at the very beginning of the relationship.

Since just about every Cosmo that I’ve ever ready assures me that I will see IMMEDIATE RESULTS with these Top 5 Relationship Tips, I thought they could be well applied to the work marriages in our illustrious A/E/C Industry…

  1. Notice the new things they do. When your special someone lands a new client, closes a project ahead of schedule or remembers to do that tedious task that is always forgotten, be sure to praise them! Positive reinforcement does wonders for future productivity. Mark my words…
  1. Remember the important days. Each year, celebrate major milestones with that go-to guy or gal and have a coffee (or even a drink) to recognize those hard-earned work anniversaries, those record-breaking sales or some awesome newly signed clients. These little get-togethers really emphasize the importance of your relationship, what you have achieved together already and what you can accomplish going forward.
  1. Get along with their family.  This one isn’t always easy, but in the A/E/C industry it’s a MUST. When your professional partner has close relationships in the industry (whether it be true family, long-term clients or internal roles that they closely rely on), remember to respect and include them in major decisions. This reminds them of how important they are to the team overall, above and beyond their relationship with your “work wife” or “work hubby.” Keep the group tight and you’ll all be stronger together!
  1. Keep your partner updated. Once again, we are all under insane deadlines; that’s no excuse. And let’s be honest; you really wouldn’t appreciate your special someone coming home two hours late for dinner. So why is it ok to be two weeks late on a deadline? This is tantamount to work marriage treason and is rarely punished to the extent it should be. Keep your partner updated on clients and project progress regularly and you will both be happier with increased peace of mind.
  1. Don’t “go to bed” angry. Last, but certainly not least, this relationship tip has stood the test of time. Going to bed angry with any work-related issues is sure to set off some alarms that rattles your brain until every last thought has been shaken out. Who can sleep with that heavy load weighting down on them. Even leaving the office before an issue has been addressed should be totally frowned upon. Make a resolution to send a text, leave a considerate and reassuring voicemail or even take a second to leave a damn note that says something like “this will be awesomely resolved” in whatever words you choose to use. This helps both you and your partner get the sleep you both deserve and puts the ball in their court.

Have you taken all of this in? Did you already take an inventory of your current work marriage relationship? What did you find? There’s no mystery here; all relationships require the same basic considerations to stay healthy. Even the A/E/C marriages that come and go throughout the lifespans of our careers. My resolution? To work on my work marriage and become a better partner…and maybe even bring roses and chocolate to meetings on occasion because, hey, I also feel that any meeting would benefit from something like that!


About the Blogger:  Between bike rides with the kids, Nicole Rodriguez “Major Marketing” juggles client meetings as an A/E/C industry consultant. She’s positively thrilled at any opportunity to shine, support and succeed, which usually means that she works part-time for SMPS as a volunteer in addition to her full-time position at TankGirl Marketing. Nicole thoroughly believes she can change the world one graphic, one event, and one client at a time and will never give up trying. She also believes that we are all lucky to be alive and well and able to read this very post!

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Must-Have Gifts: A Marketer's Holiday Wish List

Days are getting cooler, lines at the mall are getting lengthier and decorations are everywhere; it’s officially holiday season. Have you created your wish list yet? If not, it’s high time you set aside a few minutes to jot down some “must-haves” stocking stuffers. Yes, you read correctly…I’m saying that you should TAKE SOME TIME TO FOCUS ON YOU. I know, it’s a crazy idea, but worthy nonetheless!

So why create a wish list? How about the excitement of allowing yourself to see the world of possibilities? Items on your wish list are not necessarily things you need to purchase right away, but they might represent potential investments for future projects…or they could just be awesome ideas to tuck away for whenever you’re ready. Plus, as a marketing professional, you probably have a propensity for staying organized…which means you probably LOVE creating lists anyways. So let’s do this!

The first item on your ‘Must Have Marketing Wish List’ is so innovative that it’s not even available yet. Why put it on your list? I’m keeping you ahead of the game…come on people, stay with me here!

  1. Nixie - the wearable selfie drone

In a world full of selfies, advanced technology and marketing, it is no wonder that the first wearable, flying camera has been developed. Just think about all the creative footage that you could capture by walking around with this tiny drone on your wrist. Imagine this: You walk onto the jobsite of your company’s current project and it’s even more unique then you realized. Instantly, you want to hire a photographer or climb to the top story and snap a few photos or take a video. But with the Nixie, you can forget about the hassle of hiring someone else or trying to take quality photos with your iPhone. Simply put your device into ‘boomerang mode’ and Nixie soars off your wrist, captures the moment and comes right back! Within seconds, you are able to upload the newest recording of your company’s project and all you had to do was wear a selfie-drone wristband. NICE!


  1. How to Have Kick-Ass Ideas by Chris Barez-Brown

Usually, I’m not the type of person that goes around telling people about the latest and greatest book. However, I am going to go out on a limb here and make a rare exception in this case…mostly because fun reading is totally different than the serious, boring, “take notes” type of reading. If you want to head into the New Year feeling great, rejuvenated and ready to conquer the world, then READ THIS BOOK. If you are feeling stuck in a rut, uninspired, jaded or perhaps even a little dissatisfied, then this is ALSO the book for you. It’s less than 250 pages, has tons of great images, big fonts, tons of color and some kick-ass content (of course). Major companies like Nike, Johnson & Johnson and Coca-Cola all turned to this book when they needed inspiration. The book includes step-by-step activities, case studies and practical exercises and is sold on Amazon for just $11.01!

Kick-Ass Ideas

  1. Pocket Projector

The days of emailing a presentation for someone to review or handing over a binder full of paper are OVER…and if you’re still doing it, then you might want to step your game. Stand out to your colleagues AND your clients by carrying a lightweight, pocket projector. One of these mini devices can run for up to two hours on one single charge and even has dual speakers built in. All you have to do is connect to your smartphone, tablet or other media player and present. With this secret weapon up your sleeve, you’ll come across as someone who takes initiative, who comes prepared and who is “at home” in a world of ever-changing technology. Extremely convenient and simple to use, this device creates a “big screen” feel for business presentations, movies, web videos and more and can be purchased for as cheap as $30!

Plocket Projector

  1. Jot Pro Stylus

How many smart devices do you have? Okay, stop counting. Most of us carry a smart phone and possibly a tablet at all times…and maybe even a laptop when we travel. So why do so many of us still scribble away in our notebooks? While some people CAN write faster than they type (scary), others might feel that they remember things better if they physically write their notes out. Then again, there are still some of us who just haven’t adapted to the technology yet. But whatever the reason is, stop it. Stop wasting paper, stop wasting the technology at your fingertips, stop wasting your time and stop wasting all that money. Get hip with the times and purchase a jot pro! I suggest this type of smart-device because it accurately “writes” on iPads, iPhones and Androids and is compatible with most Windows products and touchscreen devices. This innovation will expose your inner creativity, allowing you to jot down notes the old fashion way (kind of) and save your “written” work for as long as you want it. Get it online for just $29.99.



Whether you’ve been out of school for a few months or a few decades, you can always learn more. Let’s face it; in today’s environment, you’ve got to constantly develop and increase your skill set if you want to stay relevant. Training through is a leading online learning company that will help you learn business, software, technology and creative skills. Everything from 3D animation to web design and more are just an online membership away. With 4,4105 video courses, expert teachers and a variety of instruction levels, you are bound to learn something new that will benefit your career and stimulate your thinking. Taking outside classes to learn one specific skill or one specific software package can be expensive, time consuming and extremely boring. With, you can decide the pace at which you learn, the price that you are willing to pay and the exact information that you want to dive deeper into.


Whether you’re looking to knock your colleague’s socks off or you’re just in the market for a little extra inspiration, any of the above items are sure to make the grade. Plus, now when people ask you that insanely difficult question at this time of year (“What do you want for the holidays?”), you now have an easy answer. You’re welcome!


About the Blogger:  Ashley Black is one of those millennials that everyone can’t stop talking about.  She’s motivated, driven and proud to be a new face in the Phoenix A/E/C industry. Ashley loves to write, volunteer and watch her favorite NBA team – the Golden State Warriors.  She’s ready to prove everyone wrong about “youngsters in the workplace” and promises to be a marketing professional you won’t soon forget.

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For Contemplation During the Holiday Break...

Here we are again...we just closed the books on Thanksgiving and now only a split second later, it's already time to shut down the office again!  Not that I'm complaining...far from it.  I absolutely love this time of year.  But it doesn't exactly make for a lot of blog traffic LOL!  Which means that I'll be making this week's blog a SUPER-EASY read...again.  In fact, you won't even have to read that much...just a short little paragraph, then WATCH and ENJOY!  Yes, I'm posting another video...OK, two videos.  But before we get to the video portion of this week's blog post, here's a little food for thought...

I consistently hear from colleagues and peers that marketing for service-based firms is different than marketing for product-based companies...and there is no denying this.  However, I usually hear this anecdote as a sort of explanation or justification for our industry's overwhelmingly lackluster approach to marketing.  It's said as if A/E/C couldn't possibly be expected or even hope to produce anything as creative (or hilarious) as some of our product-based counterparts (check out DollarShaveClub) because...well...we're different.

Is it true that most of the clever ads that we see in the mass media are a function of product-based marketing?  Yes.  But service-based companies do it too...and so can we.  I actually found an AWESOME example of a clever campaign generated by a digital services firm based out of Portugal.  Not only does it demonstrate the realm of creative possibilities for service-based industries, but it is also sure to get you into the spirit of the season.  So sit back, relax and contemplate the brainpower behind this festive piece, courtesy of YouTube and ExcentricGrey.  Happy Holidays!    

"The Digital Story of the Nativity"

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U Can't Stuff This...

So I thought long and hard about what type of post to place this Thanksgiving week.  Hard-hitting, controversial, revolutionary?  But is anyone really in the mood to read an article (or blog post) of any length leading up to a holiday weekend?  By all accounts, people are already on vacation OR doing their best to finish things up before closing down the office.  Throwing an article into the mix will surely get lost in the holiday hubbub.  So with this in mind, it seemed like the exact right time to send out a that is sure to make you laugh to the point of least, that's what it did to me.  Seriously, I almost fell out of my chair!

So sit back, relax and enjoy a little Thanksgiving funny bone from yours truly, BeatBlogger, courtesy of YouTube and "M.C. Turkey." 

"U Can't Stuff This"

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Water in the Desert (Incoming President's Address)

If you would have told me eight years ago that I’d be taking on the role of SMPS Arizona President, I would have laughed you out of the room. When I started my A/E/C marketing career in Utah more than 17 years ago, I was introduced to the Salt Lake City Chapter. But unfortunately, none of my firms were very supportive of me joining. So when I moved to Phoenix to take a job with URS ten years later, I was surprised when they encouraged me to join…and join quickly! Of course, I jumped at the opportunity…with both feet. I volunteered to be a member of the Publicity branch, attended my first newsletter committee meeting, raised my hand with an idea, and then by default was “voluntold” to take my idea and run with it. The rest, as they say, is history.

It feels a little bit like the twilight zone when I reflect on where my involvement with SMPS all started and then realize that it’s now the middle of my third month as President. Just this past year has been such an incredible learning experience. I’ve undergone personal and professional growth as the incoming President that I wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to experience. SMPS has opened so many doors for me and has helped shape the marketer (and person) that I am today. It is amazing to see what happens when you set goals, share them with your friends, and then have them hold you accountable.

There is no denying that anyone who knows me at all knows that I drink the proverbial SMPS Kool-Aid, and the past year has only increased my consumption. My love and passion for this organization is what drives me each and every day. We have so many wonderfully talented and committed professionals who have poured themselves into making our Chapter great and we are now in such an amazing position, having just won the Outstanding Large Chapter award this past year. In short, we have tremendous momentum and energy right now, and I am truly honored and humbled to be stepping in as Chapter President.

Of course, the stakes are high when transitioning into a leadership role of this magnitude and I want great things to continue for our Chapter. So as I took part in the President Leadership Symposium (PLS) this past summer, I started to rack my brain. If I had to choose ONE idea to represent everything that was to be accomplished within our Chapter this year, what would it be? Obviously, the idea of hard work isn’t foreign to any of us, but in an age of instant gratification, sometimes we need a little motivation to keep on going…especially when we don’t see our efforts paying off immediately.

I had so many ideas at first, but the idea of persevering when things don’t seem to be moving along fast enoughreally resonated with me. That’s when I remembered one of the best sessions that I’ve ever attended at Build Business; it was by Greg Bell, author of “Water the Bamboo.” The whole premise is that when giant timber bamboo seeds are planted, it takes three years of watering before a shoot even begins to show above ground. Once this has occurred, you can literally watch and hear the bamboo growing…a whopping 90 feet in 60 days! Here’s the catch, though. If the farmers aren’t diligent with their watering, the bamboo doesn’t grow.

So I took this “Water the Bamboo” concept and ran with it, and our Chapter is now officially embarking on the watering process right here in the desert to create our own little oasis. Capitalizing on and leveraging our momentum, getting our current and new members engaged, and looking for additional ways to invest in and create opportunities for our members are just a few of the ways we will be “watering” our Chapter. As always, we have some pretty big goals outlined for ourselves. But the collective effort of all of us watering together will continue to take our Chapter to great places and will allow us to reap a strong crop!

This is truly an exciting time to be a member of SMPS Arizona….so let’s do this!


About the Blogger:  Cricket Robertson, CPSM is a professional marketer by day and rocker by night. After rediscovering her love of live rock music last year, you can often find her at one of the many concerts that come through Phoenix. This year alone, she’s seen more than ten concerts and 20 bands. She has even been known to travel to see a favorite band.

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The Yoga of Marketing: Part One

“I quit.” After nearly twenty years in the A/E/C industry as a professional marketer and business developer, these were the words I uttered to my boss just before my son, Daniel, was born in 2006. I was Fried…with a capital F. I walked away from two decades of industry relationships, professional success, a number of industry friends and a mountain of stress.

I pondered my next life chapter carefully. My plan was simple: I would trade-in my Type-A, overachieving, sales-minded, creative business life and become a nurturing stay-at-home mom. I would be the best mother in the world. I would be an attentive, present and loving caregiver…the type of mom who always puts her baby’s needs before her own. I would grow whole foods in an organic, edible garden in my suburban-yet-oasis-like backyard and puree fruits and vegetables for Daniel’s snacks. I would shuttle him to and from play dates in an eco-friendly Prius and love every moment. Better yet…we would walk. I would create soft, simple play clothes from organic cotton and hemp.

My goals seemed so true and good and right. They were wholesome, pure, idyllic…all the things that I always wanted for my family but could never find the time to work into my insane marketer’s schedule. And with work out of the way, I could finally get down to it. It was perfect…and my life would BE perfect! Of course, as anyone who knows me well will attest, pretty much everything on my list turned out to be completely and utterly unrealistic.

After six-months of sleepless nights, breast-feeding, chicken pox, projectile vomit and pureeing whole oat groats for my sweet baby boy, I did what any new “Marketing Mom” would do for balance; I made myself a huge margarita, hired a full-time nanny and started my own PR firm.

Within three months, I was burning the midnight oil…again. But not for my actual baby; this time, I was foregoing sleep for my “PR baby.” My PR-firm grew like wild fire and took on a mind of its own. Before I knew it, I had clients onOprah, in the New York Times and a variety of other prominent media outlets around the globe. It was fun, exciting, challenging, and I was loving every minute of it. The only problem was that I was having sleepless nights because of the wrong baby. I had shifted all of my time, attention and energy from Daniel to my PR project. And I knew that once again - like my 20-year run in the A/E/C industry - I had allowed myself to become completely focused on work…not that I had time to do anything about it…

Then in 2010, my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and was sent home to die. As fate would have it, this was around the same time that I was media-coaching a high-profile client who had run for Congress (and lost) and who wanted advice on how to reinvigorate her national image. So in the last 48 hours of my Mom’s life, I spent my time sitting with her for a while to provide solace, then jumping on the phone for a “quick” client conference call and then running back as fast as I could to be by my mother’s side.

After the funeral, when I returned home to Arizona, I reflected on how I had “balanced” my priorities during this key moment in my life. Instead of being fully present with my Mom during her last precious hours on this earth, I had allowed myself to become distracted by work. That was my “a-ha” defining moment. That’s when I knew that I had to re-write my life script. No longer would I allow work to syphon my energy away from the good stuff in life: family, friends, relationships, presence, awareness, consciousness, mindful behavior…my version of God. I had to get my life and my priorities “in balance” once and for all. But how?

In Buddhism, this is what is referred to as “The Middle Path,” and I knew I needed some of that in my life. I just wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to achieve it…besides reading Eat, Pray, Love again. So after much contemplation, I signed up for a Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga teacher certification program at the Chopra Center in Carlsbad, California. After 500-hours of chanting, downward-facing dogging and back bends (also known as Urdhva Dhanurasana in Sanskrit or Upward Bow/Wheel pose in yogi speak), I became a Certified Yoga Instructor. The experience transformed me. All of the stress that I had built up in my nervous system over the years – all the neglect to my body and my mind – had finally dissipated. And for the first time in a long time, I felt peaceful, calm andbalanced. That was five years ago.

That very same year, I decided to return to the A/E/C industry…but with a new perspective. I decided that I would find a way to remain peaceful in this deadline-driven, stress-filled, high pressure environment (the typical habitat for professionals in our industry). After five years of “balancing” yoga-ing, market-ing and parent-ing, life and work, work and life, and integrating the yum and yuck (or the yin and yang) of work, life, family and friends, I am finally on my way to sustained balance. I am calling my journey to personal peace The Yoga of Marketing.

SMPS Arizona has marketed this phenomenon as a revolution of sorts, but I think “re-invention” is a better descriptor. As our industry embarks on the chapters ahead, ask yourself how far you are willing to go to re-inventyourself. What distance are you prepared to travel to achieve transformation? In the words of poet Mary Oliver, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?” I hope that together we can come up with some inspiring ideas and practical tools to help us all better manage work and life. Our ultimate goal? To cherish ourselves ashuman beings, not just “human doings.” To achieve “The Middle Path.”

With this in mind, I’ve included my all-time top three pieces of advice for all the high-strung, energetic, overachieving, think-we-can-do-it-all, insanely intense marketers…like myself.

  1. Be Present. When you are in a meeting, on a conference call, on a teleseminar, in a podcast or webinar, in a virtually-simulated environment, on an iPhone or iPad, iTouch or behind a pair of Google Glasses…show up! Be present and accounted for. In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn, be fully present with whatever it is that you are doing. No texting while in the presence of a real, live human being. If you must intercept a call or text while in the presence of others, be courteous. Excuse yourself. Be respectful. Be mindful. If you’re behind the wheel, just drive! It’s really about creating boundaries for yourself and sticking with them. Do one thing at a time, and do it to the very best of your ability. Multi-tasking is NOT where it’s at. Being fully engaged in whatever you find yourself involved with is a far better choice.

  2. Get Real. Make nourishing choices for yourself. Saying “yes” to projects and proposals that are resounding “no’s” means that you’ll have to say “no” to your real priorities. If an interview presentation seems unrealistic, then speak up. If it’s humanly impossible to meet a Client’s timeline, then ask for help. Be truthful, authentic and real. Saying “yes” to an extra proposal, presentation or project when you really mean “no” is not healthy or helpful. Focus on what you know is the right thing to do for yourself and your company. “More, better, faster” may be the current way of the world, but as strategic thinkers and creative marketers, we must be the voice that says “Stop…this is crazy. Is there some other way we can exceed our goals without pushing our teams over the edge?”
  1. Own Your Truth. If you’re sick and exhausted, then leave the office. If you’re unable to meet a deadline, then ask for help. If you can’t juggle another project, then say so. And if you have to excuse yourself to go for a run (or go to yoga or Reiki or whatever) or make a quick trip down to Whole Foods for a double cold-pressed Green Goddess, then do that! Ask for forgiveness and not permission, especially when it comes to taking good care of yourself. Pushing through when you are depleted, over-worked and discouraged isn’t good for anyone; not for you, not for your boss, not even for the Client. At the end of the day, any respectable employer would rather have a happy, productive and inspired Marketer than a dead one. Hey, I realize that bottom line is the bottom line, but at what cost? Small acts of self-care go a long way in restoring chi and ultimately making for a better outcome all around.

So what about you? Do you have a few pearls of wisdom that you’d like to offer those of us that have too much to do and not enough time to do it all in? Or do it all well? Share your thoughts and share in the journey of personal transformation and re-invention and we collectively learn to balance and thrive in a modern world. OM and Namaste.


About the Blogger:  An inspired marketing, business development and public relations consultant, Jeanna Zelin delves into the heart and soul of the marketer’s hero’s journey.  As a 25-year veteran of the A/E/C industry, a mother and a wanna-be yogini, she explores topics of balance, well-being, inspiration and personal transformation.

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